The working world is changing rapidly – and one of the biggest changes is the spectacular growth in the number of over-55 workers and job-seekers.
More of them are working than ever before, and more are looking for work. Some can’t retire; others don’t want to. And – despite stories out there about age discrimination – there’s demand for older workers among the region’s 100 fastest growing, privately-held companies, an annual list created by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum of Greater Philadelphia and The Inquirer. So it’s a good time to polish that resume and start looking.
Since 2000, the older part of the workforce has grown rapidly. And it will keep growing: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2028, workers 55 and older will make up a whopping 25.2 percent of all workers.
The rate of growth actually increases with workers’ age. “We know that as of 2016, about nine million Americans 65-plus were employed,” said Susan Weinstock, vice president of financial resilience programming at AARP, the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired People, “That’s up 60 percent from 2006. That’s an incredible statistic. And that cohort is expected to grow by 51 percent in the next decade.” The bureau also “forecasts a major increase in the 75-plus workforce, from 1.8 million in 2018 to 3.7 million in 2028, a 105 percent increase,” she said.
Locally, a Philadelphia Works analysis of U.S. Census data shows that as of 2017 (last year available), 120,586 people age 55 or older (18.1 percent of the workforce) were working in the city. With Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester Counties added, the number swells to 464,768, or 23.7 percent of all workers. Leading sectors include health care and social assistance (22 percent in Philly, 18 percent in the five counties) and educational services (11 percent in both).
What’s driving these trends? One big factor: “People are living longer and living healthier, much healthier,” as Weinstock put it. Economic facts of life – shrinking or disappearing pensions or benefits, changes in Social Security, student loan debt, wage stagnation – have left many over-55s believing that they can’t or shouldn’t retire yet.
Besides, many want to keep working. If you’re still feeling good and still like it, why stop?
And in many places, the Wanted sign is out for seniors.
What employers want is seniors’ experience and workplace leadership. One such employer is Careerminds Group Inc., which both serves and hires older workers. Based in Wilmington, Careerminds specializes in virtual outplacement, career coaching, job search and social networking services. It has made the Philadelphia 100 list six years in a row, thanks to a well-timed start-up and its “high-tech, high-touch” approach.
Raymond Lee, founder and CEO, said Careerminds began in 2008. “The recession was starting, and it was just the time to start a disruptive business,” he said. “We focus on assisting employees affected by reductions and layoffs, assisting them through their transition to their next journey.
“The old retirement paradigm no longer applies,” Lee said. “We are seeing a lot of clients 55-70, people of retirement age who feel healthy and aren’t looking to play golf.”
Age and experience are assets at Careerminds, which expects to grow by 20 percent this year and reported $2.4 million in revenue for 2018.
“All of our coaches are pretty much over the age of 55,” Lee said. “They have a passion for helping support employees through these life events. They’ve gone through transitions themselves and can speak from experience, whether coaching an engineer who has been laid off or a CFO.”
The senior advantage: people skills. Weinstock said she’s seeing it nationwide: “Employers really value the ‘soft skills,’ the human touch older workers bring to the workplace.” And work at Careerminds “requires a lot of emotional sensitivity,” Lee said. “The coach needs to be a good listener who understands. It’s very rewarding to watch a coach working with a displaced employee, and in the course of an hour, you’ve built trust and respect, they’re looking forward. That is where our coaches really shine.”
All job-seekers should do these, but they’re especially crucial for the 55-plus crowd.